Law lecturer and Head of Public Law at the Faculty of Law of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Dr. Alex Ansong, has questioned the decision of some African countries to close their land boarders to fellow member States warning that the action will adversely affect the smooth implementation and sustenance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
The trade and investment relations law lecturer echoed his concerns when he delivered via Zoom, the fourth lecture of the fourteen (14) week-long “Law and Ethics Web Series”, under the theme, “International Trade and Investment Relations after the Pandemic: Africa Rising?”, on Wednesday the 27th of May 2020. The online seminar is organized jointly by the African Centre on Law and Ethics (ACLE) and the African Centre of International Criminal Justice (ACICJ), both based at the GIMPA Faculty of Law.
Tariff and Non-tariff Barriers
In his presentation, Dr. Ansong first noted that with respect to trade in goods, two main barriers exist in international trade that can pose as a threat to the AfCFTA and they are tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers. Tariff barriers such as customs duties he said ought to be reduced among member states to facilitate effective trade in the AfCFTA era, however, the non-tariff barriers such as border closures is a serious impediment in the way of the AfCFTA.
“In the latter part of 2019 and the early part of 2020, Nigeria closed its land borders to other countries in West Africa. This is not the first time Nigeria has taken such drastic measures against its West African neighbours. The border closures that Nigeria resorts to from time to time are done in spite of its treaty obligations under the ECOWAS Revised Treaty. The Nigerian border closures is a typical example of a non-tariff barrier to trade. Nigeria did not impose tariffs on goods coming from other ECOWAS countries. It simply closed its borders. Such non-tariff barriers are more drastic and they have a greater negative impact on international trade in general and specifically, intra-African trade” Dr. Alex Ansong said.
“Disappointingly, none of the ECOWAS member states saw the need to challenge the Nigerian border closure at the ECOWAS Court of Justice even though the ECOWAS Treaty makes provisions for such dispute settlement measures. The other West African states rather opted for diplomacy while traders were stuck at the Nigerian borders. The West African states chose political expediency over a commitment to enforcing the rules that they have enacted under the ECOWAS system” Dr. Ansong added.
Negative effects of Boarder Closures
Dr. Alex Ansong warned that such boarder closures send a very wrong signal against the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which is a collective agreement reached by member States of the African Union (AU).
“In the AfCFTA system, if such arbitrary acts that flagrantly breach AfCFTA law go unchallenged, the aspirations of ‘Africa Rising’ will just be rhetoric” Dr. Ansong observed.
Actions to be Taken
According to Dr. Ansong, while he considers the AfCFTA project a very laudable idea, one that can enhance Africa’s performance in international trade and investment after the Covid-19 pandemic, the “genuine apprehensions” such as boader closures which currently exist are a clear threat to its viability and success and the leaders of the continent ought to put a stop to same and rather choose dialogue to resolve trade relation challenges.
“Good laws cannot be implemented if the political organs are saddled with rigid rules that promote gridlock in the decision-making system. Good laws are not self-enforcing. They require effective enforcement mechanisms. If our local industries are encumbered with moribund rules, we will continue to bring up the rear in contributions to international trade and investment. The hope of Africa Rising is still a viable one if we don’t burn the ladders we need to climb to the top” the learned law lecturer said.
Law and Ethics Web Series
The Law and Ethics Web Series begun on Wednesday the 6th of May 2020 on the online meeting platform, Zoom at 2pm. The pending presentations on Jun 3, Jun 10, Jun 17, Jun 24, Jul 1, Jul 8, Jul 15, Jul 22, Jul 29, and Aug 5, 2020, will come on as scheduled. Interested persons may join any of the upcoming sessions by visiting the Zoom application and using the Webinar ID:848-2795-0621 or https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84827950621.
Various speakers have been lined up for the exercise by the organizers. The series is being coordinated by Dr. Kwaku Agyeman-Budu, a Lecturer and Head of Law Centers at the GIMPA Faculty of Law. The 27th of May 2020 session was moderated by Professor Richard Frimpong Oppong, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Thompson Rivers University in Canada, under the distinguished patronage of the Rector of GIMPA, Professor Philip Ebow Bondzi-Simpson, the Honorific Dean of the GIMPA Law Faculty, Justice Sir Dennis Adjei and the founding Dean of the GIMPA Law Faculty, Professor Kwame Frimpong.